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Must-See Mustang: Exploring the Unique Culture and Landscape of Nepal's Hidden Gem

Must-See Mustang: Exploring the Unique Culture and Landscape of Nepal's Hidden Gem

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Here we come across the Wonders of Mustang, which are beyond the tale. The once-forbidden Kingdom of Lho Manathang is the major attraction of Upper Mustang. The little Tibet and the castle of deserted landscapes, Mustang, is a well-preserved medieval culture of Tibetan Buddhist heritage.

Upper Mustang lacks greenery but has caves made up of mud, deserted landscapes, and once had the streaming of the Tethys ocean, of which no signs are seen now.

Life has become challenging in Upper Mustang as water sources are missing in the major terrain of Upper Mustang. But wherever the river flowing from Dolpa and Kali Gandaki mixes with the melting of Himalayan glaciers, there is a better sign of life.

How are people like in Mustang?

The inhabitants of Mustang widely belong to the Tibetan Buddhist community, and they also respect the principles of

  • Hinduism,
  • Kiratism,
  • Animism (belief in supernatural power), and
  • Shamanism (the belief there is an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits).

The population of Mustang mostly settles on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, as the deserted land has a source of water where the river flows. In the major settlement areas of Gurung, Thakalis, and Mustang, people reside between 2,800 and 3,900 m (9,200 and 12,800 ft) above sea level.

Lower Mustang is the preferred destination for inhabitants here. People often have summer and winter homes within Mustang, which is why a large winter migration into the lower regions of Mustang is evident in Nepal.

The Lopa community widely dominates the Upper Mustang settlement area. The people in Lho Manathang Mustang are welcoming, which is why a visit to the ancient royal castle is suggested in the itinerary of the Upper Mustang trek.

Ancient Art and History of Mustang

Upper Mustang Nepal is mainly known for its caves, adventurous roadway leading to the China border (Korola), and few scattered villages. The unique deserted castle and hideouts in the red and blue landscapes are the highlights of the Upper Mustang.

There is historical significance attached to the Lo Manathang kingdom of Mustang, the rich descendants of Tibet. And people still believe in and pay homage to his majesty's heir, the current generation of once-kings.

It was not until 1951 that Lo Manathang (Upper Mustang) was a secret kingdom. Later, the father of the nation, Prithvi Narayan Shah of Nepal, united the scattered states into Greater Nepal.

To date, Mustang, beyond its deserted landscapes, is well-known for its preserved medieval cultural practices, murals, scriptures, and artistic expressions. The cultural influence of the Lopa community, which practices Sakya Buddhism, is said to be leading the next generation of the Mustang community.

Lo Gekar Monastery (Ghar gompa) in Mustang

Lo Gekar Monastery in Mustang is said to be the oldest monastery in the kingdom of Mustang. “Ghar Gönpa,” as it is locally named, has been here since its inception by the Tibetan monk Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in the 8th century.

How to reach Lo Gekar Monastery?

  • Take a drive diverting from the path of Kagbeni on the gravel road, other than the one that leads to the Muktinath temple.
  • Continue to the gravel road on the northwest side of Charang and Marang villages in Upper Mustang.
  • You find it on the trekking route from the high-altitude pastures of Drakmar to Lo Manthang.
  • Find the Ghar Gompa (Lo Gekar) monastery after passing Ghami village on the route to Lo Manathang.
  • Lo Gekhar is located at an altitude of 3930 meters on the south bank of the Marang River.

Lo Gekar monastery was renovated as a meditation and retreat center in the 20th century with numerous chortens. This Sakya monastery is one of the demon-taming temples worshipped by Tibetan monasteries.

Jampel Tenzin Dradul, the late king of Mustang, gave it a second life and assigned the Sakya Buddhist community to preserve it. Until today, influential values and spirits from Buddhist figures in Mustang, like Guru Rinpoche and Sanggye Lingpa, are hugely celebrated.

In addition, landmarks like Dragkar-Thegchen Ling Gompa, Jampa Gompa, and Thupchen Gompa, the monasteries made between the 13th and 15th centuries, also preserve the ancient artifacts, intricate mandalas, and artistic legacy of Mustang in general.

Journey from Lower Mustang to Upper Mustang in Nepal Trek

If we want to explore the unique culture, history, and artifacts of Mustang, along with its surprisingly beautiful landscapes, book a trek with Nature Trail.

To enter the premises of Mustang Jomsom (in the lower Mustang), you take a travel distance of about 460 kilometers. Also, there is a facility for domestic transfers from Kathmandu to Jomsom on a scenic 35-minute flight.

If you trek from Lower Mustang to Upper Mustang in Nepal, you get to see the high-altitude barren deserts, with few settlement areas in the trekking area. The eroded canyons, sky caves of Mustang, and vividly colored stratified rock formations make the landscapes more demanding.

Extended territory and climatic region of Upper Mustang

You get to see the river coming from the narrow canals, through big deserted landscapes and rock formations and have red and blue hues all around the journey. The territory of Mustang extends between the tropical alpine and coniferous forests of Mustang.

Mustang is an arid desert, a cold one because it receives very little rain annually. The area is rather dry, as it falls in the rain shadow area of the Himalayas of Nepal. The humid clouds are blocked from here and transferred to the Kaski region. That's why rain is rare here, while Kaski (Pokhara) is the second Cherapunji in terms of rainfall.

On the route to Upper Mustang, you get to see a waterfall forming from the glaciers and the melting of ice in the Himalayas, like Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Annapurna North, and Damodar Himal. Some key climatic characteristics of Upper Mustang are,

  • Upper Mustang has large diurnal temperature variations with short summers and monsoons in this arid climate.
  • very little rainfall throughout the year and an average annual rainfall of about 307 mm
  • Temperatures can drop to -20°C with heavy snowfall on winter nights
  • The average daytime temperature in autumn is 13°C to 20°C, and night can go even minuses.

Festivals in Mustang

Mustang is the second least populated district in Nepal, as per the recent census. Its exceptionally rich cultural celebrations, festivals, and

1. Tiji Festival

Come to Mustang in April and May, when the Tiji festival is in full swing in the capital of Lo-Manathang. Tiji, the vibrant festival, marks the Mustang clan's new beginnings with colorful costumes. The locals celebrate it with,

  • traditional Tibetan songs,
  • masked dances,
  • the rich culture of Mustang

The rhythmic chants and clashing swords, honoring the victory of good over evil, are the major highlights of the Tiji festival in the Mustang and Manaslu regions.

On a spring tour of the Upper and Lower Mustang Trekking in Nepal, you can participate in the religious ceremonies, Vajrakila practice, and the complete 3-day rituals of this Tiji festival in Upper Mustang.

2. Yartung Festival

Mustang has a unique Yartung festival, where the three-day celebration is all about archery, and locals compete here for skills and pride for the generation, along with a horse race in August. It's a family and community that join together for delicious feasts and laughter as the clan members engage in an act of bravery.

3. Festivals at Ghar Gompa and Luri Gompa

Every year, the Mustang community eagerly celebrates the festivals at Ghar Gompa (Lo Gekar Monastery) at an altitude of 12, 800 feet (3921 meters) and Luri Gompa (3,950 m/12,959 ft) near Ghara village in upper Mustang in Nepal.

4. Losar (Tibetan New Year)

Two Losar festivals (Chhegu Emma and Chhegu Semma) are celebrated. Though Lower and Upper Mustang natives have different ways of life and value systems, they celebrate the two major Lhosars, Chhegu Emma and Chhegu Semma, with similar beliefs.

Here, the Mustang natives celebrate Tibetan Lhosar and the New Year with the worship of nature and religious masked dances, as per their lunar calendar.

Conclusion

Stay tuned for a walk through villages in the Upper Mustang Trek blog. If you feel like visiting Mustang after reading this blog post, Nature Trail arranges luxury tours and trek packages in Upper and Lower Mustang, based on your preference. Also, you can inquire and make payments for the Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, and Everest base camp treks with our experienced navigation service.

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